Copyright

Double Entendre & Innuendo in Much Ado About Nothing

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine William Shakespeare's use of double entendre and innuendo that make Much Ado about Nothing a somewhat risqué comedy. After learning some examples of these, you'll be able to test your knowledge with a quiz!

Background and Definitions

While many view the Peter, Paul, and Mary song, 'Puff the Magic Dragon' as a children's song, it's been widely speculated that it has another meaning. It's believed by some to be a song about smoking marijuana, which would make it an example of double entendre. A double entendre is the humorous use of a word that has both a traditional meaning and usually a lascivious or otherwise inappropriate definition. Often, one party is innocent of understanding the second meaning. Similarly, innuendo is a remark made with sexual or derogatory undertones, however in the case of innuendo, both parties are in on it. In William Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, much of the humor of this romantic comedy comes from double entendre and innuendo. Let's look at some examples from the play.

Double Entendre

The title of this play is actually an example of double entendre. During this time period, nothing would have been pronounced 'noting,' which means paying attention to something or making notes about something. This describes how the characters are paying attention to all of the wrong things. For example, Claudio takes note and acts out because he thinks Hero is cheating on him, but she isn't. The other definition of 'nothing' from that time would be slang for lady parts because she had 'no thing.' This double entendre would suggest that love relationships cause a lot of problems.

An old cover page of Much Ado About Nothing. Note the older style of English at play in the text in this image.
An older cover page of Much Ado About Nothing

Another double entendre is evident when Beatrice asks the messenger, 'I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from the wars or no?' She uses the nickname Signor Mountanto in reference to Benedick because the mountanto fencing move was used as slang during that time period for both social climbing and thrusting up sexually. As this language is often difficult to comprehend for modern audiences, actors will sometimes pronounce it like the words 'mount on to' so that everyone can appreciate this double entendre.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support